Pension Records Clear Hurdle for Forced Labor Victims

      December 31, 2009 12:38

      The Japanese government has confirmed that there exist records of pension premiums paid by Koreans who were forced into labor by Imperial Japan during World War II. The matter is becoming a major diplomatic issue as the two countries mark the 100th year since Japan colonized Korea.

      Japan's Social Insurance Agency has found the pension fund records of 4,727 forced Korean laborers during the final years of Japan's colonial rule and the Japanese Foreign Ministry offered the list to the Korean government, the Asahi Shimbun daily reported Wednesday.

      The move comes after Seoul asked Tokyo this past fall to review records involving around 40,000 forced Korean laborers. The records of other forced Korean laborers could not be verified.

      In 2004, Seoul formed a truth commission to investigate forced labor and gave W20 million (US$1=W1,165) in compensation to the families of each Korean who died during forced labor. Those who survived are to be paid W800,000 a year each for medical expenses, but more than 90 percent of the 160,000 applicants have no records to prove their claims, prompting Seoul to ask Tokyo if any records survive.

      The 4,727 forced laborers whose pension records have been found are expected to receive either medical fees or compensation payments.

      Only last week, Tokyo sparked controversy by paying seven surviving forced laborers just 99 yen or around US$1 as a pension based on their contributions during their ordeal in World War II, without reflecting the inflationary value of the amount the workers had originally paid. Whether the 4,727 whose records have been unearthed will fare any better remains to be seen.

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